Sometimes when I’m supposed to be working I look up random words and phrases on the internet. Which brings me to “Pig War.”

I think my favorite part is that it happened almost as simply as I’ve portrayed it here. Two farmers got into a tiff over a pig and raised the stakes way past the point where you’d expect someone to say “seriously you guys it’s one pig.” By the time letters had worked their way to and from Washington and London, there was a standoff between 461 Americans with 14 cannons and five British warships carrying 2140 men.

But then, the real issue wasn’t the pig so much as the fact that there were a bunch of *their* soldiers on *our* island (a sentiment shared by both British and Americans). That’s the thing with border disputes. It’ll be fine for years and years and years, but eventually someone does something stupid. And then every country involved thinks every other country involved is trespassing on their territory, and suddenly you’re in a Pig War.

According to Wikipedia, there was another Pig War, but it was a trade war where Serbia boosted tariffs on Austria-Hungary. Austria-Hungary stopped allowing Serbian pork through its borders, which was worse than it sounds because at that point the Serbian economy was, like, 120% pork. Russia backed Serbia, and Germany sent an ultimatum to Russia, and then everybody realized they were about to start World War One and chilled out for a few years.

There were actually a lot of Almost-World-War-Ones in the decades leading up to World War One. But that’s a subject for another time.


Update 3/10/2015:
Someone on Reddit asked where San Juan is and why it was disputed. The island is between Seattle and Vancouver, and not long before this a whole lot of area out there was contested, I think mostly because it was sparsely settled frontier. The US and Great Britain signed a treaty and solved the dispute, mostly, except for some vague wording re: San Juan. Thus, pig war.

(Thanks to u/Boomfrog for the question)